First Place Award for General Excellence, Catholic Press Association, 2013-2016

Archdiocesan Partnership Crucial for Universal Pre-K, Says Mayor
By JULIANN DosSANTOS
Chris Sheridan
Prekindegarten students at Catherine Corry Early Childhood Academy in the Bronx chat with Cardinal Dolan and Mayor Bill de Blasio before a press conference discussing universal prekindergarten March 6. With them is a teacher at the school.

At an Early Education Academy in the Bronx, Cardinal Dolan showed Mayor Bill de Blasio how a good prekindergarten program works.

The two leaders were at Catherine Corry Early Childhood Academy at St. Francis of Assisi School in the Wakefield section of the Bronx March 6.

On a tour of the brightly lit and colorfully student-decorated facility, the two visited a classroom where four- and five-year olds were busy at work on art, math and science lessons.

Cardinal Dolan told the mayor as he looked on in admiration at the students, “Look at how hard they’re working.”

The mayor is a strong proponent of universal prekindergarten (UPK) in the city. UPK would ensure that every child regardless of income would have a seat in school. He needs to find space for 24,000 prekindergarten students by the fall.

The archdiocese, along with the Diocese of Brooklyn, have an estimated 1,700 seats available for prekindergarten students.

Cardinal Dolan told the mayor, “Thanks for inviting us to be an ally in what we consider to be a very promising endeavor.”

The cardinal said, “We’ve been on the front lines of before- and after-school programs—and universal pre-K. Our numbers are great, but we’re itching to do even more and we’ve got the capacity and the drive and the energy to do it.”

Dr. Timothy McNiff, superintendent of schools for the archdiocese, agreed with the cardinal. “As you know, we’ve had to close a number of schools over the last couple years and right-size the system,” he said. “That created capacity for us from a buildings’ perspective that we’re now ready to transition into UPK sites.”

The Catherine Corry Academy is one of 34 UPK sites in the archdiocese. It was founded in 2012 and is home to prekindergarten and kindergarten students of St. Francis of Assisi School. The renovated building it occupies was formerly a facility of St. Frances of Rome School, which closed in 2008.

De Blasio said, “This is a school that found new strength and new focus when it came to pre-K, and has done it brilliantly.”

He said, “This is really a model that we can learn from and work with deeply. And now—if I’ve gotten my numbers right—there’s 161 kids in pre-K—full-day pre-K in this building—161 kids benefiting from full-day pre-K. The school is a great school.”

Both the mayor and the cardinal agreed that the only issue standing in the way of the partnership was funding. The mayor has proposed a tax on the wealthy to support the program. Cardinal Dolan remained impartial on the issue saying “How it’s going to be done, how it’s going to be funded—I leave it up to them.”

Mayor de Blasio said, “I have to tell you this is an extraordinarily important moment in our effort to build out full day pre-K across this city.”

“The partnership of the archdiocese will be a crucial part of the equation because they understand full-day, high-quality pre-K is the way to go,” he said.

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